The Dallas Stars skated in Frisco Saturday morning as they prepared to play their preseason game at St. Louis and joining them was center Martin Hanzal. It was the first practice of training camp for Hanzal who has been out with a sprained ankle.
"It's better," Hanzal said. "I wasn't expecting to be hurt before training camp starts, but it happens. Today was the first day I was skating with the guys, so it is great. Making progress and I should be ready soon."
Hanzal, who signed with the Stars as a free agent in the offseason, injured the ankle while skating with his teammates in Frisco before camp. He's been skating on his own recently, so joining the group Saturday is a step forward. The next step will be to get into a preseason game.
"Going to take it day by day, see how it is the next day and how it will react," Hanzal said. "I would like to play in a couple of preseason games or at least one, so I can get up to game speed again."
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said he is pleased with Hanzal's progress and is confident the center will be ready when the Stars open the regular season Oct. 6 vs. Vegas.
"I think our focus is the final preseason game and anything before that is a bonus," Hitchcock said. "We're pretty confident now with the way things are going that he is going to be up to speed well in advance, which is a great sign for us."
As for Saturday night's game in St. Louis, Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal and is expected to go the distance. Mike McKenna will serve as the backup.
Video: Hanzal skates with team, Spezza on center depth
Forwards Jason Spezza and Gemel Smith both will get in a preseason game for the first time in 2017. Spezza will center a line with Mattias Janmark and Brett Ritchie. That trio has been together a lot this preseason and is looking like a viable option to open the regular season.
"We've skated together all camp, so we are getting a chance to get used to each other," Spezza said. "I played with Matty two years ago a lot, and I played with Ritchie quite a bit last year at times. There's not a lot of breaking in to do, so it's just a matter of getting back to doing what we do well and being a good line."
It appears Hitchcock is going to roll with a couple of lines he used in Friday's practice including Roope Hintz centering Jason Dickinson and Devin Shore, and Radek Faksa center Antoine Roussel and Tyler Pitlick. Smith is expected to center Remi Elie and R.J. Umberger.
The defense pairs have some familiar looks as well with Marc Methot skating with John Klingberg, and Esa Lindell partnered with Jamie Oleksiak. Dan Hamhuis and Stephen Johns round out the blue line.
Tonight's game is the third of six preseason games for the Stars
Stars cut roster by two
The Stars announced Saturday they have reduced the training camp roster by two players, releasing forwards Travis Morin and Greg Rallo from their professional tryouts. The roster now stands at 50 players.
Who: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues
Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis
When: 7:00 p.m.
Stars Projected Lineup
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Jason Dickinson - Roope Hintz - Devin Shore
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Remi Elie - Gemel Smith - R.J. Umberger
Marc Methot - John Klingberg
Esa Lindell - Jamie Oleksiak
Dan Hamhuis - Stephen Johns